Tue, Apr. 01, 2003
The Kansas City Star
An attitude of not giving up helped Doug Murray land the position of debtor contact representative in the Social Security Administration. Murray uses a walker because he has multiple sclerosis.
Doug Murray, 50
Debtor contact representative
Company: Social Security Administration
About the agency: The debt management department within the Social Security Administration collects SSI or disability paid to persons in error. In many cases, the error occurs because those who were originally qualified for the payments no longer qualify. Contact often is made with those involved through letters or phone calls, or through job sites or family members.
My role: I make and receive calls based on these attempts to collect the payments made in error. This also involves a lot of computer work, such as inputting information to set up installment agreements.
Q: How long have you been in this position?
A: Since April 8, 2002.
Q: How long did it take you to find your job?
A: Several years. I was laid off in May 1997 after a career spent mostly in working with mentally retarded persons. While seeking employment, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I contacted vocational rehabilitation professionals for help. I also decided to enhance my education by going back to school in computer technology. I applied for 30 to 40 jobs from November 2001 until last spring, when I found this position.
Q: How did you find your job?
A: I found the vacancy announcement on a Web site, www.usajobs.opm.gov. I sent in my application by mail. Meanwhile, my vocational rehabilitation counselor also knew the person here who handles applications for persons with disabilities and tried putting in a good word for me. I interviewed with my present supervisor and was offered the job a little less than two weeks later.
Q: What worked in the job search?
A: A combination of using the Internet and networking, not only with friends but with complete strangers. It works to even tell people at the grocery store -- anywhere you can.
Q: Did you reach a low point? If so, how did you overcome it?
A: Yes. Most difficult to handle was sending out so many applications and resumes and never getting an interview. I'm thankful for the support I had from family and friends. I'm one of those people who never gives up.
Q: What is your best advice for others in the job search?
A: Don't pigeonhole yourself. Look at all the skills you have. If I found a job listing that sounded anything at all like something I could do, I applied there. Eventually you'll find something.
Q: What is your educational background?
A: I have a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City (1991) and I'm halfway through my master's degree program at Park University. I hope to go back and finish my master's in public administration. More recently I completed a computer technology program at Maple Woods Community College (December 2001).
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share related to the job search?
A: To not give up. Also, be willing to make a change -- broaden your outlook -- instead of just looking in one particular area.
Q: How does this new job fit into your long-range career plans?
A: This is a career change. But it's been a good one. This helps me
prepare to choose from many different avenues within the federal government
for a future position. If I'm willing to move, the opportunities will be
Sue Dye Babson/Special to The Star
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